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2012 Honda Civic first drive review

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    New Honda Civic is sleek and slim and looks as though it has been carved from a single piece of metal. Photo Gallery

Ewan Kennedy road tests and reviews the 2012 Honda Civic at its Australian launch.

Forty years and 20 million cars after it was launched in 1973 Honda’s Civic is right up there with the world’s all-time best selling cars.

Now the ninth generation of the small Japanese car has been launched in Australia. Civic has arrived several months late because of the horrors created by the Japanese tsunami and the Thai floods.

Honda suffered more that most auto makers by the twin disasters as many of its cars, including the Civic are sourced from a factory in Thailand.

Australia is fortunate in that our Civics are right-hand drive so the slack has been taken up, temporarily, by Civics built in Japan. Within a matter of months the Thai factory will be back online again.

In the meantime Australian buyers of Civics may choose to opt for the prestige of getting one of the Japanese plated cars. Honda Australia assures us build quality is tightly controlled in Thailand so the cars are as good as those from Japan.

But we know that prestige can be an interesting thing and, who knows, when it comes to resale time your ‘Japanese’ Civic may be fetch more than a ‘Thai’ Civic. No promises, though…

This new Honda Civic is the ninth generation. All previous models have been imported to Australia as the then importers of the marque realised the importance of the car right from the start.

DESIGN

This new Civic is larger, substantially larger, than the original models, indeed it’s significantly bigger than the earliest Honda Accords. Though a lot of the extra size is due to crash protection crush zones the new Civic can certainly be used as a family car. Many Australians downsizing from family sixes will be giving the Civic the eye when it comes time to trade in.

Interior space is fine for four adults, with space in the centre-rear for another without too much discomfort. Despite the slim and sleek appearance – the new Civic almost looks as though it has been carved from a single block of metal – headroom is fine. Quality plastics are used on the trim, but we found the grey-on-grey colour scheme on the drab side.

Only the four-door sedan is coming to Australia at this stage. Boot space is good and luggage is reasonably easy to load. A five-door hatch, built in Honda’s English plant, will be imported here from July this year.

FIT-OUT AND EQUIPMENT

There’s a big emphasis on in-car entertainment and communication in the all-new Civic, with a screen in the right-centre of the dash devoted to phone, iPod and audio systems. These are controlled by buttons on the steering wheel to minimise – but obviously not eliminate – driver distraction.

ENGINE AND MECHANICAL

Honda is continuing its push on petrol-electric hybrids and has made major changes to the electric motor in the new Civic Hybrid. It now uses a lithium-ion battery in place of the nickel-metal-hydride of the previous model. However, at $35,990 the hybrid is far more expensive than its petrol-engined brothers, these are priced at a highly competitive $20,990 for a manual Civic VTi-L ($2300 more for the auto) and $27,990 for the Civic Sport.

Ninth-gen Honda Civic is being sold in three models; as well as the hybrid there are the Civic VTi-L and Civic Sport. The former is powered by a 1.8-litre, 104 kW engine, the Sport by a larger unit displacing 2.0 litres and producing up to 114 kW of power and 190 Nm of torque. The Civic VTi-L has a choice between a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The Sport - despite its name - only comes with the automatic.

DRIVING

We sampled all three powertrains and it probably comes as no surprise we preferred the Sport engine - though we would have loved it with a six-speed manual gearbox - but the 1.8-litre is fine and the hybrid certainly has more oomph than in the past.

Ride comfort is good as Honda has increased suspension travel and worked on recalibrating bushing compliance. We didn’t get a real chance to sample handling on the tourist-type drive route Honda chose for the media-launch of the new Civic, but it certainly doesn’t look as though there will be any surprises.

Over 200,000 Australians have bought new Honda Civics in Australia since its introduction in 1973 revolutionised the design of small cars in this country. This new model certainly looks set to continue the sales success.

Comments on this story

Displaying 1 of 1 comments

  • Just bought one, leaves the old Verada a long long way behind.

    david Posted on 16 April 2012 10:15pm

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